-Written by Dave Allen for WetFeet
With a more career-centric Facebook has come greater scrutiny of users’ photos, statuses, and the cache of personal information posted over the years. Today’s job seekers face a dilemma: embrace the site’s professional side and censor themselves for the sake of their careers, or keep their Facebook use strictly private and social.
To debate the risks and rewards of using Facebook as a job-seeking tool, WetFeet editor in chief Denis Wilson and Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0 and founder of Millennial Branding, sat down for a chat. As you’ll see, they’ve taken sides, too.
Q: Should job seekers use Facebook as a job-search tool?
DS: Yes. Job seekers are getting better results on Facebook. Someone you meet on a plane or at a networking event and add on LinkedIn is a weak connection. You’re primarily using Facebook to connect with friends and family, but there are professional contacts on there, too. If one of your friends works at PwC and you message them, the probability that they’ll take your resume to a hiring manager is much greater. Existing contacts are more willing to go out of their way for you than a random LinkedIn contact.
Q: On the other hand, why would a job seeker want to keep their Facebook use strictly private?
DW: The reason is mainly pragmatic: It’s unrealistic to think that most people would maintain the level of professionalism needed to face the public and recruiters. Facebook is such a valuable tool for me personally that I wouldn’t want to give it up or go back and erase things. It would be like changing your history or crossing things out of your diary. Plus, the tools on LinkedIn are really geared toward professional networking. These aren’t found on Facebook yet.
Q: But aren’t people who don’t list their job or their employer on their Facebook profile closing themselves off?
DW: You should still include some of your information, since your Facebook page is one of the first things that comes up when you’re Googled. But I think being 100 percent open is not good. If you’re making personal comments, are you representing your company? I think that leads to sticky situations; I don’t want my political or religious comments to be interpreted as my employer’s point of view.
DS: Right now, employers are conducting background searches on Facebook primarily. They want to catch you off guard and limit their piles of applications, and Facebook is the best way to do that. As long as your online image is professional, you can use Facebook to show more of your personality: your hobbies, your achievements, and what you can do for others.
Q: What do hobbies and other personal things have to do with your professional life?
DS: Let’s say I’m an accountant and I go to a networking event where no one’s interested in what I do. But if someone’s interested that we both like the New England Patriots, that’s a mutual connection. You have to be well-rounded so you can connect with people not just through your profession.
DW: I agree, but I’d add that recruiting is like dating. On a first date, you reveal a few slivers of your personality that you know will spur some interest. The problem with Facebook is that it doesn’t allow you to show just those bits. It shows everything. For example, what if I had my Spotify connected to my Facebook and I happened to be listening to misogynistic hardcore rap? I might just be curious about that kind of music, but without context, it would send the wrong message.
Q: Should a job seeker friend a recruiter on Facebook?
DW: I think a friend request would be seen as invasive. I think the better route is to see if they’re connected to one of your friends or try to get an introduction through someone else.
DS: I wouldn’t recommend it either. It’s much easier to connect with hiring managers and recruiters somewhere else, like commenting on their blog or following and retweeting them on Twitter. If you show interest that way, and then try to add them on Facebook or LinkedIn, they’re more likely to connect with you.
Q: Should you broadcast your job-seeking status with something like “I’m looking for a job in this field—anyone know of any openings”?
DW: It would be a little less savvy for an experienced professional, but for someone who needs to get their name out there and make new connections, why not get everyone in your network working for you?
DS: If no one knows you’re job searching, how can they help you? But if you have a job and you’re looking for other jobs, don’t publicize it on Facebook. That’s a horrible idea.